US drone attacks are war crimes claims Amnesty International

October 22, 2013

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have released a report claiming that US drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen are war crimes.  The report is issued in conjunction with an investigation by Human Rights Watch detailing missile attacks in Yemen which the group believes could contravene the laws of armed conflict, international human rights law and Barack Obama’s own guidelines on dronesAmnesty International has highlighted the case of a grandmother who was killed while she was picking vegetables and other incidents which could have broken international laws designed to protect civilians.

The reports are being published while  Pakistan’s prime minister Nawaz Sharif,, is in Washington. Sharif has promised to tell Obama that the drone strikes – which have caused outrage in Pakistan – must end.

Drone strikes are being launched by the CIA into the contentious Pakistani border tribal areas, where it is very difficult to get info.  There are numerous militants in these areas. (How  secret now eh!) People are often terrified of speaking out, fearing retribution from both militants and the state, which is widely suspected of colluding with the CIA-led campaign.  But, from the Guardian:

Amnesty mounted a major effort to investigate nine of the many attacks to have struck the region over the last 18 months, including one that killed 18 labourers in North Waziristan as they waited to eat dinner in an area of heavy Taliban influence in July 2012. All those interviewed by Amnesty strongly denied any of the men had been involved in militancy. Even if they were members of a banned group, that would not be enough to justify killing them, the report said.

When Obama was running for the office of president, he wooed voters with promises that military action in the Afghan/Pakistan area would be wound down. But the attacks go on. He promised to close the detention camp at Guantanamo Bay. But it’s still up and running, regularly subjecting inmates to “rigorous interrogation” (torture to you and me); and of course there are the secret CIA prisons worldwide, where we don’t know the inmates, the charges, the evidence, nothing. And the secret courts, where suspects are convicted on the basis of secret evidence that the defence can’t even look at.

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I know I’ve said I’m tired of all the drone shit in the news nowadays, and that I would try to avoid going on about them. But I saw this story and knew I had to share it. This demonstrates that Obama’s “anti-war” sentiments when he ran for presidential office were a bunch of bullshit. He loves fighting wars (not in person, of course, the cowardly custard tart), and semi-autonomous, remote controlled drones are perfect for him: they can carry out airstrikes and assassinations without running the risk of more soldiers come home in body bags. FFS America, why do you want this moron “ruling the free world”? Every drone strike causes anti-American sentiment to grow more and more. Get rid of your president – I don’t really care how, buy you have to do something!

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“Killer robots should be banned…” But I want one!

November 20, 2012

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The Terminator – coming to a war zone near you!

 Human Rights Watch has released a 50-page report on the subject of “fully autonomous weapons” that could kill without any human interaction required – in other words, killer robots, like Arnie in The Terminator.  And surprise surprise, the report (catchily entitled Losing Humanity: the Case Against Killer Robots) says that they should be banned – now, before anyone pours too much money into such a project.

“Giving machines the power to decide who lives and dies on the battlefield would take technology too far,” said Steve Goose, the HRW arms division director. “Human control of robotic warfare is essential to minimising civilian deaths and injuries.”  The robot would have to make ethical judgements as well as tactical and strategic decisions: for instance, are some civilian casualties acceptable weighed against the battle outcome.  At the moment these kind of decisions are made by human officers on the battle ground.  But can a computer be fully capable?

And then there’s the scenario of a malfunctioning robot soldier.  Do we really want to risk having a heavily armed killer robot running amok?

There are already basic semi-automous weapons systems already in use – for instance the drone aircraft that are famous for firing hellfire missiles at innocent Afghan wedding parties, and the Phalanx CIWS (Close-In Weapons System) that is used to protect ships from missiles. And in December 2010, the South Korean firm DoDAAM unveiled the Super aEgis II  an automated turret-based weapon platform that uses thermal imaging to lock onto human-sized targets up to 3km away. It is able to function during nighttime and regardless of weather conditions . No one has yet created a robot soldier, but several countries are actively looking into the subject, such as the US, China, Germany, Israel, South Korea, Russia and Britain.  The HRW report claims that experts believe operative machines could be ready in 20 years if not sooner.  And who knows what is going on in top secret defence projects?  They’re not called “top secret” for nothing.

So the report recommends that international treaties banning these kinds of weapons should be banned now, before any country gets too involved in such a project – no government wants to scrap a project that it’s already invested billions of dollars into.

“It is essential to stop the development of killer robots before they show up in national arsenals,” Steve Goose said. “As countries become more invested in this technology, it will become harder to persuade them to give it up.”

But it’s hard to see this idea stay unexplored.  Automation is invading everyday life – why shouldn’t it be used on the battlefield?  I can certainly imagine the robot soldier being sold to the public as a way to avoid seeing our boys coming home in body bags.  But what will it be like for the people who are on the front line: not just soldiers, but the people who actually live in the war zone?  Mistakes are made by human soldiers – what could a fritzed Terminator be capable of?

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